I began thinking about all the waste we produce and where it all ends up. You can imagine that the answer is really obvious– landfills, sewer systems, the ocean, etc. Then I started questioning which kinds of waste aren’t necessarily visible to the average consumer. One of these less tangible pollutants to affect our land is the nuclear bomb test. That’s right! According to nuclearweaponarchive.org, “between 16 July 1945 and 23 September 1992 the United States of America conducted (by official count) 1054 nuclear tests, and two nuclear attacks. The number of actual nuclear devices (aka “bombs”) tested, and nuclear explosions is larger than this, but harder to establish precisely.”
So, we know from the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WWII with the Pacific, that nuclear weapon radiation exposure is extremely lethal and still affects the land and people living off of it for generations. But can underground bomb tests affect our soil, and eventually us? Of course it can, and it has. The National Cancer Institute website posted a study showing the effect nuclear bomb tests have on us. I highly suggest reading the full report for a deeper understanding, but here is an excerpt to sum it up:
“Scientists estimate that the larger amounts of I-131 (radioactive form of iodine–called iodine-131) from the Nevada test site fell over some parts of Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana. But I-131 traveled to all states, particularly those in the Midwestern, Eastern, and Northeastern United States. Some of the I-131 collected on pastures and on grasses. Depending on the location, grazing cows and goats sometimes consumed contaminated grasses resulting in I-131 collecting in the animals’ milk. Much of the health risk associated with I-131 occurred among milk-drinkers–usually children. From what is known about thyroid cancer and radiation, scientists think that people who were children during the period of atomic bomb testing (1940s-1960s) are at higher risk for developing thyroid cancer.” –National Cancer Institute
Is having the most deadly nuclear weapon in the world worth a spike in childhood cancer? Are these tests absolutely necessary? And will these highly lethal radioactive substances ever decompose in a safe way? I live in a post WWII country, where the U.S. isn’t necessarily trying to grow our nuclear weapon arsenal. It’s been said we’ve actively tried over the last decade or so to decrease our nuclear warfare arsenal. Have we learned that the damage cannot be undone? Generations to come will suffer the consequences of actions taken by scientists in the 40s, 50s, and 60s who poisoned the Earth and all its inhabitants.